It showed up out of the blue earlier today, and got me thinking nostalgic for a minute or two, but the thought came back again an hour later: If I knew then what I know now, what would I tell my teenage self?
What can a 17-year young understand? Looking for something true to say, leaving no stone unturned – it’d better be true – I ended up telling the kid in the photograph, “Without you, I wouldn’t be here. You did well.”
I said that twice to ensure I heard it loud and clear.
It’s not always been easy. I grew up in a world of “Could do better!” Reminders in school reports, complete with exclamation marks, weren’t unusual. Yet, I was already doing my damn best! What happened?
Well, just what I needed, a learning difficulty of sorts, my parents were told which, to me, felt like being handed the key for hating school with a legit excuse! But what remains is I felt like everything with school was right and everything with me was wrong. Not ideal for keeping the self-esteem of a little kid up where it belongs, but hey, that’s how I felt and I was young. We all go to school and get over it eventually, we all do, isn’t that so?
Well, I kept “Could do better!” throughout the rest of my teenage years. I was a handful, but who isn’t early in life, eh? It can be fun for a while, but it can also lead to a life of always between boredom and panic and everybody wants what the other has got.
I loved hanging out with people just like me. Of course, it didn’t get me anywhere, but it felt the safe thing to do and the best years of my life. The memories aren’t fun. On the contrary, at 17, I’m always alone and it’s cold.
My life is different now.
“You did well.”
I’m doing my best, like everybody else.
The “Could do better!” people also have a motivation, just a different one.
Know what you want. Perhaps that’s all there is to it?